Unless they are checked quickly, clothing moths can cause extensive damage to a closet of woolens. Larvae feed on wool, hair, fur and feathers contained in clothing, blankets, upholstery, pillows and rugs. Finding items dotted with holes or catching sight of moths in a closet calls for immediate action. Waiting will allow the laying of additional eggs and an even larger infestation down the road.
The webbing clothes moth is the most common type of moth in the United States. These moths may appear at all times of the year, but they are most abundant during summer. The head bears a tuft of reddish hairs, and the wings and body are buff-colored.
The casemaking clothes moth lives in many areas of the United States but is concentrated in the South. These pests are brown, and their wings show dark spots.
Deterrents: What Works
- Airing and brushing will rid fabric items of pests. Rugs, blankets and clothes containing wool, feathers or fur should be taken outside periodically on a sunny day and shaken. A thorough brushing along seams and under collars and cuffs will dislodge larvae and eggs.
- Cleaning helps prevent an infestation by removing the food spills and perspiration these pests find attractive. Clothing should be washed or dry cleaned before winter storage. Laundering also rids fabrics of eggs.
- Proper storage will keep clothes safe. Once clothing is thoroughly cleaned, it should be stored in resealable plastic bags or air-tight plastic containers. Openings and seams should be sealed with tape. Cardboard boxes are ineffective because of sealing problems.
- Vacuuming helps to keep the storage area clean and remove larvae and eggs. Storage areas and closets should be vacuumed regularly with special attention paid to crevices and corners.
- Lowering the humidity will help get rid of moths, which prefer humidity levels of 70 to 80 percent. Placing a dehumidifier in a closet and using it regularly will lower the population of unwelcome winged visitors.
- Pheromone traps attract only the male webbing clothes moth. While these traps are effective for indicating the presence of pests, they do not kill them in significant numbers.
- Cedar chests generally do not have a sufficiently tight seal to maintain cedar oil at levels high enough to kill or repel pests.
- Mothballs work to control moths, but only in very high concentrations that are dangerous to the health of humans and pets.
Over-the-counter products can control a moth infestation, but they rarely eliminate it, and they cannot kill larvae. When fumigation is called for, a trained pest control expert will work to get rid of the moth problem safely and effectively.
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